If you’ve turned on the TV, taken a speech class, or scrolled through Facebook at all in the last few years, then you will have noticed one hot debate topic that comes up time and time again: the legalization of marijuana.
We aren’t actually going to talk about that hot-button issue, but we are talking about marijuana today.
First, let’s start with the facts.
Fact 1: Marijuana comes from a plant. This plant is known as Cannabis and it has two major species that are used for marijuana: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica.
Fact 2: It is the second most commonly used psychotropic in the United States. A psychotropic is a drug or substance that affects the mood, behavior, and thoughts of a person.
Fact 3: Marijuana has been called a “gateway drug” for years and years and years. This means that there is some evidence that has suggested that using marijuana may lead to the desire for, and use of, other substances. This has been another hot-button issue related to marijuana.
Now, we know that it comes from a plant, a whole lot of people are frequently using it, and that there is the possibility of it being related to further substance misuse. Yet, we still don’t really know what marijuana is, so let’s talk about that.
What Is Marijuana?
At its root, it is essentially leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers from the Cannabis plant. Usually, these come in shades of brown and green. Like we saw above, there are two main types of the cannabis plant. One is Cannabis sativa.
This is what is truly known as weed and is lauded for its medicinal and psychoactive properties. To have psychoactive effects means that it is considered mind-altering.
On the other hand, you have cannabis sativa L, also known as hemp. Hemp is non-psychoactive—or not mind-altering—and is more commonly used in manufacturing and production. It has been used in things like oil, cloth, and other fuels.
The active ingredient—that’s the ingredient that is responsible for the effects of marijuana—is known as THC. This stands for delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. This is also the chemical that your brain will slowly develop a tolerance for over time with prolonged use of marijuana.
Now, one thing about THC that some researchers have a hard time agreeing on is its potential to be addictive. According to research conducted by, and with, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), THC can lead to marijuana use disorder. This is a type of substance use disorder that is characterized by dependence on a substance, in this case, marijuana.
Marijuana use disorder becomes an addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with a lot of different aspects of everyday life. Estimates of the number of people addicted to marijuana are controversial. Some studies as reported by NIDA suggest that 9% of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it, rising to about 17% in those who start using in their teens, however, not many of those people seek treatment or detox for their dependence.
Marijuana, like other substances, impacts the brain by changing its chemistry.
The Brain Science Behind Weed
Marijuana, like all substances, is made up of a series of chemicals that impact our brain’s neurotransmitters, or messengers. Marijuana and THC specifically mimic cannabinoid neurotransmitters.
Marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing the production of, and sensitivity to, its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters. These affect brain areas that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, and sensory and time perception
So, we can think of THC as a chemical that changes the functioning of the hippocampus, a memory center in the brain, and the orbitofrontal cortex. These are brain areas that enable a person to form new memories and shift attentional focus. This system can be, and sometimes is, activated or altered by more than just substances that get misused.
Also, THC can mess with the functioning of the cerebellum and basal ganglia. These are brain areas that regulate balance, posture, coordination, and reaction time. So, if you’ve ever heard someone talk about, or joke about, not being able to drive while high on marijuana, this is why.
The special circuit that the cannabinoids impact can actually also trigger the brain’s reward system. In the normal brain, dopamine is the usual reward chemical. It is naturally produced and released into the brain by what is known as a neuron. The dopamine then finds its way to its receptor.
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Receptors, Neurotransmitters, And Brains, Oh My!
Think of the receptor system in the brain like a puzzle, the jagged edges find their way into the right open spot. Once they match up, they do their job whether the message they are sending and receiving is about happy feelings or more negative feelings.
The same can be said for dopamine and its dopamine receptor as well as the cannabinoid receptor system that THC impacts. Once the dopamine or cannabinoids have linked up with their special receptors, a protein comes along and removes the messenger chemical from the receptor. Think of this as taking apart the puzzle: this makes it so you can use the puzzle again another time.
When using drugs or alcohol, this communication process can get all out of whack. This can cause the neurotransmitter to stay connected to its receptor longer. And when the puzzle doesn’t get reset, then chemicals start to rush the brain continuously. This causes an amplified signal, also known as euphoria or a “high”. This is why medically-based and medically-reviewed care is so critical.
Cannabinoids And More Acronyms For You
Another hot-button issue you’ve almost definitely heard of is CBD, which is the acronym for cannabidiol. It’s another cannabinoid, like THC, except it can be found in hemp as well, that cousin of marijuana briefly mentioned up there.
Confused? Yeah, we’re not sure why the scientists couldn’t figure out a different naming scheme for some of these things, but we work with what we have. Hemp is a part of the cannabis family that produces much, much less THC, so it doesn’t have the same euphoric effects as marijuana.
And since hemp doesn’t produce the feeling of being “high,” it means CBD oil can be distilled from hemp for the production and sale of CBD oil and oil-infused products. CBD oil is said to help with, well, you can kind of find somewhere that will claim it can help with literally any problem around.
The studies into CBD haven’t been super definitive, but a lot of people feel it helps them. A few studies have shown effectiveness in helping with some rare medical conditions, and potentially the ability to help some people sleep, but again, a lot of those studies aren’t definitive.
What Are The Effects Of Using Marijuana If It Messes With Brain Chemistry?
We are so glad you asked. When using the drug, people will often experience a “high”, this usually is seen with side effects or symptoms like:
- increased senses
- a different sense of time
- feeling humorous
- mood changes
- decreased body movement
- impaired thinking and memory
If too much is had, then it is possible to also have hallucinations, delusions, and other types of psychosis. But, these aren’t the only reasons to practice caution when using marijuana. Marijuana is often responsible for both long term and short term effects. Some short term effects include:
- altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
- altered sense of time
- changes in mood
- impaired body movement
- difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
- impaired memory
- hallucinations (when taken in high doses)
- delusions (when taken in high doses)
- psychosis (risk is highest with regular use of high-potency marijuana)
This is directly because marijuana over-activates parts of the brain that contain the highest number of the receptors that we were talking about earlier. Of course, not all the effects are short-lived. Remember, we said that there can be long-term effects as well. These include:
- breathing problems
- This makes sense when you consider that it is usually smoked. Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, and people who smoke marijuana frequently can have the same breathing problems as those who smoke tobacco.
- increased heart rate
- Marijuana can actually raise a person’s heart rate for up to 3 hours after smoking. For some, this effect may increase the chance of heart attack especially if there are other underlying heart issues.
- intense nausea and vomiting
- Regular, long-term marijuana use can lead some people to develop Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. This causes users to experience regular cycles of severe nausea, vomiting, and dehydration, sometimes requiring emergency medical attention.
Sometimes, if someone uses marijuana while pregnant they may also notice problems with child development during and after pregnancy.
The other major effect is most of the reason why people use it: it makes them feel good. Remember, it can activate those reward systems in our brain that let us feel good, relaxed, and even euphoric. So, this makes sense as to why people may want to use marijuana, especially if they don’t know the short- and long-term effects that can impact them. But now it’s time to talk about the main topic at hand.
Are Marijuana Dependence And Marijuana Withdrawal Real?
According to recent studies, like those conducted with the support of NIDA, the answer is yes. Yes, you can be addicted to—or dependent on—marijuana. Part of this may be due to the increase in the THC level in weed in recent years and particularly over the last handful of decades. This makes addiction or dependence much more likely than ever before.
Like we saw above, using marijuana or cannabis can have both physical and psychological effects and lead to some really specific symptoms. However, it is important to remember that there is still no evidence that links marijuana to life-threatening overdoses.
On the other hand, cannabis, or marijuana, has been linked to extreme feelings of anxiety and paranoia that can lead to panic attacks which are a result of overuse. Sometimes these lead people to seek care in the local emergency clinic which allows them to get care for the psychotic episode triggered by the overuse of marijuana.
So, it is important to know the risks associated with it. Also, NIDA has recently reported that anywhere from 9-30% of marijuana users will develop some dependence on the drug. Those who begin at younger ages are more likely to experience this type of dependence.
That being said, it is critical that we look at the withdrawal effects of marijuana since those with a dependence on it are likely to experience these effects when trying to detox.
Can You Really Have Cannabis Withdrawal And Withdrawal Symptoms?
It turns out that you can withdraw from marijuana just like other substances. This is another thing that, for a very long time, the scientific community couldn’t agree on, but recently more and more studies have started to show that it is possible to feel withdrawal from marijuana.
Symptoms Of Marijuana Withdrawal
Marijuana use disorders are often associated with dependence rather than direct addiction. This is because it is said that a person feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. Those frequently using marijuana may experience a variety of problems when trying to quit:
- sleeping difficulties
- decreased or increased appetite
These symptoms usually peak within the first week after quitting and last up to two weeks.
Long term use and withdrawal from marijuana can also be related to a few mental health impacts in certain people. These include:
- temporary hallucinations
- temporary paranoia
- worsening symptoms in patients with schizophrenia (a severe mental disorder with symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, and disorganized thinking)
All of these pieces associated with marijuana withdrawal paint a pretty clear picture of why someone may be feeling things like anxiety, grouchiness, sleepiness, or other emotional moodiness.
It makes sense that the next questions most of us start to wonder about is whether or not you would need to detox from marijuana, and if you did need to, where would you go?
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Do You Need To Detox From Marijuana? If You Don’t, Will You Have Worse Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms?
First, let’s start by clarifying what detox really is. The dictionary defines detox as removing toxins from the body. Within our bodies, we have some organs that work night and day at this. This is part of why we can metabolize or use medications.
When it comes to detoxing from a substance of use, also often known as a drug or alcohol, the same principle applies. The process of detoxing is designed to allow you to detoxify your body from the substance. Or, to get rid of the substance that is currently in the body.
Most of those who go to detox at a facility or even those who do it at home often experience some types of withdrawal symptoms. This is true for all substances that can cause dependence or addiction. Some experts cite this as being one of the reasons that relapse is so common with those experiencing an addiction because aside from intense cravings it can be a relief from the symptoms.
This is why facilities that provide detox are so important. They can help you focus on the task at hand, which is getting better. They will also help with keeping you safe and healthy during the detox which can be important, especially when dangerous substances or amounts of substances have been used.
The types and severity of the symptoms vary greatly from person to person and substance to substance. In general, we always recommend that you seek care for an addiction—no matter what substance it is—from trusted professionals. If you are looking for a detox program, it can be hard to find one that fits you and your needs.
Some things to consider when seeking detox care for marijuana dependence are:
- professionals available at the site and level of clinical expertise
- continuum of care, meaning what multiple levels of care they offer you during and after you attend
- compassionate atmosphere
Perhaps the most overlooked part of cannabis withdrawal care is being sure that you are surrounded by individuals who care about you and are ready to support you on your resilient journey through recovery. This is why Vertava Health of Mississippi is proud to provide care to so many on their recovery path. We know recovery is tough, but so are you.
Seek Help With Vertava Health Of Mississippi
No matter what you are dealing with, we’re ready to help you approach it head-on. If you are struggling with marijuana addiction or dependence, let us know. Our evidence-based treatments are here to help guide you.
One of those evidence-based treatments is called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which is a form of therapy used all over the world and backed by years and years of positive results. We use DBT to help you attain or refine skills to manage any disturbing emotions you may experience, but also to maintain a calm mind. In addition, DBT is set up to teach you how to develop effective life skills in order to solve problems in your daily life.
The core ideas behind DBT are acceptance and mindfulness. It’s a form of therapy that focuses on changing how you think, what you think, and what you do, so your behavior is informed by, but also supports, your thoughts and emotions.
When you attend Vertava Health of Mississippi you will have weekly, individual counseling and coaching sessions alongside four DBT skills training courses. These courses are mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness, and each builds upon the others to help you start and maintain long-term recovery. DBT is only one of the important tools you’ll find when you begin Marijuana Addiction Treatment.
More than anything though, we use your natural strength, the dedication, and resilience you have to change your own life. Once you take that first step we help amplify what you are capable of by harnessing your power and will for change. Recovery can be a long and difficult process, but you will guide yourself through it. Give us a call at 844-551-7335. We’re looking forward to chatting.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Do Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
There are a lot of factors that will determine how long someone feels marijuana withdrawal symptoms, including individual body chemistry, length of use, and the amount of marijuana regularly consumed. The withdrawal symptoms most often peak within the first few days and generally can last for up to two weeks.
What Are The Symptoms Of Marijuana Withdrawal?
Withdrawal symptoms can include grouchiness, depression, temporary hallucinations, decreased or increased appetite, and cravings/urges for marijuana. These will not be the same for everyone due to the differences in body chemistry but also the length of time someone has been struggling with marijuana use and how often they consumed it. There have also been studies that show marijuana withdrawal can worsen symptoms for someone suffering from schizophrenia, which already has symptoms like hallucinations, paranoia, and distracting/disordered thought patterns.
How Can You Ease Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms?
A medically-supervised detox is one way to help. Occasionally doctors and nurses will use medications to help ease the feelings of grouchiness and even depression, but that is a decision left up to your physician. One of the easiest ways to ease marijuana withdrawal symptoms is to make sure you are surrounded by people who can care for you and make you comfortable. A big part of remaining calm and detoxing healthily is staying comfortable and safe.